Editor's Chair A Different Take on Color By Noel Ward, Executive Editor, On Demand Journal April 11, 2006 -- Two years ago at its annual Open House here in Poing, Germany Océ announced its new VarioStream 9000 line of continuous feed print engines. The concept is that a single print engine--only offering black print at the time--would evolve to print multiple highlight colors and ultimately become a full-process color press with the flexibility to also print black-only or multiple highlight colors, and do it more cost-effectively than competitive offerings. Océ has kept its promise, adding one, then two spot colors so the VS 9230 can print black plus two colors, full duplex, in a single pass. Full process is still a bit further down the evolutionary path, but we may see it reaching the market in 2007. Some of us at Open House got a glimpse of that future in Poing and can say its coming, and that it looks good, even thought its not coming as quickly as we would like. The Océ VarioStream 9230 prints black plus two additional colors on both side of a sheet in a single pass. But that's what will be. The here and now is a unique approach that Océ calls Job Appropriate Color. Coming from a legacy of transactional and book printing applications Océ recognizes that not all jobs require the same amount of color. The idea behind the VarioStream 9000 family is that one machine can be used to print the right amount of color for the application. For some statements this may be black, but for others it might mean a red corporate logo plus another color, and replace a preprinted form. But shifing statements from preprint is just some of the low-hanging fruit. Next on the list of applications are manuals, which are typically very cost-driven documents. The instructions for wiring a complex home theater system, for example, might show coaxial, electrical and speaker wiring in different colors to clarify each type of connection. This can make installation easier and reduce calls to help desks, while adding only incrementally to the cost of the document. The targeted direct marketing brochure for a timeshare condo at a golf and tennis resort, on the other hand, would require full color. Different applications, but all done on one machine, which can reduce the amount of equipment needed by the print provider. For a more detailed look, Océ will be publishing a new white paper on Job Appropriate Color. It's expected out in a few weeks and we'll post it here at ODJ. Color and the Newspaper The VarioStream 9230 at Open House was putting down black and two additional colors. This box had been demonstrated at Print 05 last September but its palette was limited to black with versions of cyan and magenta. Some six months later things have changed. The show daily newspaper, printed on the show floor, used black and blue and red but the colors were blended to provide different shades. There were three or four reds, several blues and a couple of browns. While still not full color, the different colors made pages and advertising more attractive and easier to read. More importantly, the toners don't have to be ones of the CMYK mix. Océ has long offered a number of standard toner colors plus a large palette through its CustomTone program which matches many Pantone spot colors. All of these are or will be available on the VP 9000 line so colors can be changed based on document requirements. The Show Daily and other newspapers were printed on the VarioStream 9230 on the show floor using highlight color. In addition to the show daily, some of the European newspapers being printed on the show floor---part of Océ's Digital News Network-- also used one or two colors, notably in their nameplates and corporate logos. Océ sees digital newspapers as expanding niche market. While currently limited to use by a few hotels in major cities and some transoceanic airlines, the potential exists for expansion to local markets. Along that line, several transactional service bureau owners at Open House were asking specifically about newspaper printing as a way to increase equipment utilization--and their bottom line. While some saw potential for special editions of local papers or free-standing inserts, others saw the ability to provide papers to very specific audiences. For instance, there are many pockets of ethnic populations throughout the U.S. These might be a group of 800 or so people from, say, the Czech Republic, living in a just a few zip codes in a major city. An enterprising print provider with a VarioStream 9000 could arrange to produce and distribute copies of a popular Czech-language paper for those expatriates, and do the same thing for other ethnic groups hungry for a regular paper from "home." There are a host of logistics and rights issues to work out, some which could be aided by Océ's Digital News Network, but the technology and revenue potential is clearly there to support such an endeavor. There was much more at Océ's Open House and I'll try to bring in more of it in some future columns, but for now it's time to get ready for On Demand in Philadelphia where some of what was in Poing will be on U.S. soil for the first time. Be sure to let me know what you think.